Bilingual Campus, A Long Way To Go
The ‘2018 Research on the Work Environment of GIST Graduate School Students’ published in the 22nd edition of GISTNEWS has identified many difficulties for the international graduate students. Despite GIST’s official policy of pursuing a ‘Bilingual Campus’, many foreigners are frustrated over unexpected language barriers, such as lectures and administrative services that are only offered in Korean. Currently, 105 foreign students from 23 countries are attending GIST. Since 10 percent of the graduate students are foreigners, it is necessary to pay attention to the language problems that the foreign students encounter and come up with countermeasures.
Major Classes in Korean
Controversy over Infringing on the Right to Study
There are no Korean language proficiency conditions in the five Science&Engineering Colleges (DGIST, GIST, KAIST, POSTECH, and UNIST) in Korea. This is because the schools guarantee classes in English and bilingual administrative services. “GIST is known to be a bilingual campus, but it is not true,” said Raqibul Hossen Saikat, the representative of GIST International Students’ Association (GISA).
According to ‘The Guideline for English Use’ Article 2 Protocol 1 of GIST’s rules, ‘All classes should be in English.’ However, that is not the case. Some major classes are taught only in Korean. “In few classes, professors recommended international students to drop their classes arguing that English classes were impossible because the prepared materials were in Korean. Nevertheless, the foreign students took classes taking unfair treatments lying down in order to fulfill their required credits” said Hossen, the GISA representative.
In response, Min Kyung-sook, the head of the Section of Student Services, explained the reason that the lectures are in Korean, saying, “In order to deliver the lecture efficiently, professors sometimes ask for understanding of students and make some or all of the lectures in Korean.” In sum, considering Korean students’ understanding, it is hard to complete the entire class in English.
Lab Meetings, Seminars in Korean
A Limitation of the Academic Debate
Foreign students have often been excluded from lab meetings and seminars as well as their major classes. “A lot of the international students have this same feeling that they are even left out in the academic discussions in lab meetings as they hear English for only 20 to 30 minutes during their own presentations during a three to four-hour-long lab meeting,” Hossen, the GISA representative, explained. He also said that most of the academic seminars that both Korean and foreign students are required to attend are in Korean. “I understand why Koreans give their presentations in Korean, but if they use English for the international students in part of their presentations, the foreigners would feel less alienated,” he added.
However, some say that the speaker had better speak his or her native language for the delivery. They say that Korean students need to speak Korean to deliver the contents about their personal researches or laboratory assignments and receive feedback. “There are some laboratories where all lab meetings are held in English, but in order to enhance understanding of the presentations during a lab meeting, there are some labs where Korean students speak Korean and international students use English when they present their researches. In addition, the feedback is in the speaker’s language,” said Choi Joon-ho, the vice president of GIST Graduate School’s representative association.
On the other hand, GIST has the aforementioned ‘The Guideline for English Use’. Based on the regulation, the school needs to take active measures, since major lectures, lab meetings, and department seminars delivered in Korean could be a violation of foreign learners’ right to study.
In-School Notices and Promotional Materials Are Also in Korean
Frequently Missing Important Information
The school sends students various life-related guides as well as academic works by e-mails. This is no exception to foreign students. “Most e-mails from the school and the departments are written in Korean, so the international students cannot keep important deadlines sometimes. Also, promotional materials and school websites such as the GIST Portal and the Laboratory Animal Resource Center are all in Korean. At first, I used dictionaries and translators, but there are limitations. It is also difficult to keep asking Korean colleagues to understand the contents in Korean. Many foreign students have asked the school to write the notices in both Korean and English several times, but it has not improved at all,” said Hossen, the GISA representative.
Regarding this, Choi Soo-in, the head of the Section of International Cooperation, said, “All the administrative departments are trying to write bilingual notices or at least write the title in English.” She also promised to continue to direct each administrative department and department office to send out instruction e-mails for foreigners in English.
Regarding the matter, Choi Joon-ho, the vice president of the Graduate School’s representative association, asked for cooperation from the fellow Korean students, saying, “When there are some documents in Korean which the international students probably need or get interested in, Korean students who are the laboratory fellow should actively convey the contents in English. The role of Korean students is important.”
A Lack of Diversity in Diet
No Menu Written in English
Thanks to the international students’ suggestion, a Halal food truck has operated twice a week (Monday and Friday from 11:30 to 12:30) in the parking lot in front of the international hall since May this year. Now, many students, including Muslims and vegetarians, are using the food truck.
Although many students responded positively to the food truck operation, it is also regrettable that the number of operations is low. “It takes a long time to cook food in the kitchen when the food truck is not coming. Many Muslims and vegetarians hope to expand the operating,” said Hossen, the GISA representative.
The school says it is difficult to increase the operating times of the food truck. “It is difficult for school cafeterias, which are currently in the red, to add a new menu for foreigners, Muslims or vegetarians. Although the school has approved the operation of the food truck as an alternative, it is too much to increase the number of the operations due to a violation of the school cafeterias’ business rights and food safety issues,” explained Choi Young-soo, the head of the Section of General Affairs.
Also mentioned was the fact that menus in the school cafeterias are in Korean only. Choi Young-soo, the head of the Section of General Affairs, said, “It is difficult to provide bilingual menu because of the limited size of the menu screen, i.e., all the letters would become too small to look at if English is added to the menu, but major meat and allergic products are written in English, too.”
However, there is only one cafeteria where this is being observed: the 1st school cafeteria (the school cafeteria on the first floor of the 1st student union). Except for this, no cafeterias in GIST are using English in their menu.
Language Exchange Program
Expecting to Help the International Students Adjust to Korea
As a way to ease the difficulties of the international students, Hossen, the GISA representative, suggested a language exchange program. Most Korean language education centers at universities, including Seoul National University, Yonsei University, and Korea University, support language exchange activities. They match foreign students and Korean students for one on one partnerships and let Korean students help foreign students study Korean, do various cultural activities together, and help them adjust to Korean life.
“If the school connects the international students and Korean students 1:1 and manages them regularly, the language exchange program will help the international students adjust to Korean life a lot. Korean students will also be positively affected by the expansion of their thoughts through the language exchange,” said Lee So-rim, a Korean instructor in the Language Education Center. Choi Joon-ho, the vice president of the Graduate School’s representative association, said, “Language exchange activities will help both Korean and foreign students to practice conversation and build human networking.”
According to Article 3 of GIST’s rules on ‘The Guideline for English Use’, ‘All members of GIST should strive to open their thoughts, throw life areas open and wide, and internationalize our school by making the use of English a daily life through self-directed learning, despite the distinctions in Article 2.’ Reconsidering of the current situation is required.
By Jeong, Dain (firstname.lastname@example.org)